Sunday, May 6, 2007

Israel's House Demolition Policies - Part 1


Today is Day 14,267 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination Signed by Israel 7 March 1966: Ratified by Israel: 3 January 1979
In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of this Convention, (Israel) undertakes to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the following rights:
The right to equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice;
The right to own property alone as well as in association with others;
The right to housing.

In 1947 Congress passed an act which promised all Americans “decent, safe and sanitary” housing. The first litigation I participated in was in 1970 when we filed suit on behalf of the tenants of a public housing project to ask that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts take over the Lynn Housing Authority because of its inability to provide such housing.

I believe that the lack of decent housing is the cause of many other societal ills and that we would be a more just society if we were to provide such housing. As a homeowner I have mixed feelings when I hear that the value of my house has increased knowing that the reason is the lack of supply of housing. I also wonder whether there is not an unconscious resistance on the part of legislators, all homeowners, I assume, to pass funding bills that would increase substantially the stock of housing in this country.

So as I have read over the years about the government of Israel not only not allowing Palestinians to build houses in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem but in actually destroying and demolishing houses unrelated to security issues but simply for administrative reasons such as not being able to obtain a building permit, I continue to be disgusted with what the government of Israel is doing.

Here is some material related to this deplorable policy of house demolition. For more detailed material you can visit the websites of some extraordinarily courageous human rights groups such as the Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, B’Tselem and Bustan.
Planning and Building in the West Bank

Over the past three decades of occupation, Israel has employed in the West Bank a policy of planning, development, and building that severely restricts construction by Palestinians, while allocating broad expanses of land to establish and expand Jewish settlements. In this way, Israel has created a situation in which thousands of Palestinians are unable to obtain permits to build on their land, and are compelled to build without a permit because they have no other way to provide shelter for their families.

Israel froze planning in Palestinian towns and villages. The existing planning schemes, which date back fifty years and more, serve as the basis for approval - more often rejection - of applications for building permits. Land registration has been frozen for thirty years, making it easy to deny applications for permits on the grounds of failure to prove ownership of the land. Israel administers the building authorities, which have no Palestinian representation. A Palestinian wanting to obtain a building permit to build on his land in Area C [that part of the West Bank which remains under complete Israeli control] must undergo a prolonged, complicated, and expensive procedure, which generally results in denial of the application.
In this situation, and with no option, many Palestinians are compelled to build without a permit. The construction is not a political act or an act of protest. Rather, the construction is the only way left to them to provide housing for themselves and their families.

Rather than change this situation, Israel has adopted a policy of mass demolition of Palestinian houses. In the past ten years, the authorities have demolished more than 2,200 residences, leaving more than 13,000 Palestinians homeless. This policy continues today in Area C.
On 17 February 2005, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz adopted an IDF committee’s recommendation to stop demolishing the homes of Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks against Israelis. The committee found that house demolitions are not an efficient deterrent.
At the same time, at least 155 Israeli settlements, containing more than 170,000 Jewish Israeli citizens, have been established. These settlements benefit from an efficient system of planning and supervision of construction, and establishment of comprehensive planning schemes for all the settlements. Despite this, thousands of houses were built in these settlements without permits. Israel refrained from demolishing these houses, and instead issued retroactive building permits for thousand of houses constructed without permits. This building-permit policy blatantly discriminates between settlers and Palestinians.

Planning and building is a purely civilian matter. The military authorities have the right to intervene in planning and building only where patently military matters are involved. Conversely, individuals have a basic right to be involved in determining the future of their surroundings, including the right to elect and direct the planning and building authorities, and occupation cannot justify denial of this right.

THE KILLING OF RACHEL CORRIEAn American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed on March 16, 2003, by an Israeli IDF driver of a Caterpillar Bulldozer while attempting to defend a Palestinian doctor’s home from being demolished. Tom Dale, a member of the International Solidarity Movement, wrote in an eyewitness account “We’d been occasionally obstructing the 2 bulldozers for about 2 hours when 1 of them turned toward a house we knew to be threatened with demolition. Rachel knelt down in its way. She was 10-20 metres in front of the bulldozer, clearly visible, the only object for many metres, directly in its view. There is no way she could not have been seen by them in their elevated cabin. …. The bulldozer drove toward Rachel slowly, gathering earth in its scoop as it went. She knelt there, she did not move. The bulldozer reached her and she began to stand up, climbing onto the mound of earth. She appeared to be looking into the cockpit. The bulldozer continued to push Rachel, so she slipped down the mound of earth, turning as she went. … All the activists were screaming at the bulldozer to stop. … (The bulldozer) pushed Rachel, first beneath the scoop, then beneath the blade, then continued till her body was beneath the cockpit. … They reversed with the blade pressed down, so it scraped over her body a second time. .. I ran for an ambulance, she was gasping and her face was covered in blood from a gash cutting her face from lip to cheek. .. She died in the ambulance a few minutes later of massive internal injuries. She was a brilliant, bright and amazing person, immensely brave and committed. She is gone and I cannot believe it.”

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

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